Bakersfield soldier killed in Vietnam to get Medal of Honor

Bakersfield soldier killed in Vietnam to get Medal of Honor »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Lenora Alvarado never knew her father. She was just 10-months old when her dad, Leonard Alvarado, was killed during a fierce firefight on Aug. 12, 1969, during the Vietnam War.

"I would have loved to have known him," said Lenora as she visited his grave at Greenlawn Cemetery in northeast Bakersfield.

By the time he died, Leonard Alvarado had grown to almost legend-like status among fellow soldiers in Vietnam. According to the White House, Spc. Leonard Alvarado exhibited courageous actions while serving as a rifleman with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Phouc Long Province in Vietnam.

His unit came under attack and Alvarado was wounded by a grenade. Still, he managed to take out the grenadier just as another enemy barrage wounded him again. Somehow Alvarado managed to crawl through the fusillade to pull several comrades back within a hastily formed perimeter. He managed to take out the enemy and save his fellow soldiers.

Alvarado is one of 24 veterans being awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous bravery on March 18 at the White House.

The vets served during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Each of these vets was previously recognized by award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest military award.

But, discrimination in the military denied many servicemen and women their due recognition.

A 12-year review by the Pentagon ordered by Congress found that Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans had been denied the Medal of Honor because of their racial or ethnic background.

"It makes me so proud that he is being recognized," said Lenora Alvarado.

Her father grew up on Drury Lane in east Bakersfield, where he was raised by his mother, Beatrice Narez. He attended East Bakersfield High School.

"He did a lot of things, like worked in the fields, in the grapes and in different things," said his sister, Violet Estrada.

Leonard and his mother are both buried at the same site at Greenlawn Mortuary and Cemetery on River Boulevard.

"My mother never forgot him," said a sobbing Estrada. "Every year, every time we took flowers, we visit his grave."

Lenora Alvarado said she was in awe when President Barack Obama called her and told her the news.

"I nearly fell out of my chair, I couldn't believe it," she said.